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Wheelchair-bound senior citizen with medical needs alleges eviction from Prince Rupert supportive housing facility

Crows Nest opened in 2019 to offer homes to Prince Rupert’s homeless and most vulnerable
Merv Gorda, Prince Rupert senior citizen, on Aug. 17 said he is homeless and has nowhere to go except sit on a city street corner after being evicted from supportive housing and denied acceptance in the emergency shelter due to his wheelchair. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

A wheelchair-bound senior citizen was allegedly evicted on Aug. 16 from Prince Rupert’s supportive housing, The Crows Nest Lodge, which was built to house the city’s most vulnerable. The man said he received less than a week’s notice and is now sitting on a downtown street corner without food, change of clothes, blankets, or washroom facilities to empty his medical catheter bag.

Merv Gorda, a 68-year-old city resident, told The Northern View that he lived in the Crows Nest for more than two years. The 36-unit facility, which opened in March 2019, has two accessible units, is managed by the North Coast Transition Society and funded under the provincial Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program.

Gorda said he received the eviction notice in writing last week, telling him to vacate by Monday. He was unable to take the paperwork with him when he left all of his belongings behind as he had nowhere to store anything, nowhere to go and being in a wheelchair, couldn’t carry anything. Even his socked feet didn’t have shoes, but instead wore toeless slippers.

He admits he was smoking cigarettes inside his unit and had received a warning previously. However, he said others also smoke in their units and not just cigarettes.

“Everybody was smoking in the building. I was allowed to smoke once in a while, for a little while being in a wheelchair, but then they said no smoking.” He said he was the only one out of 34 people who received an eviction notice for the infraction.

“They were just trying to make an example of me.”

The man whose birthday is in two days, moved to Prince Rupert when he was five years old and has lived in the city since 1958. He worked all his adult life as a member of the carpenters union until he retired. Gorda said his spine is compressed, leaving him immobile in the chair for the past two years. The battle scar across the bridge of his broken nose is still fresh from a fall out of his chair last week.

When asked about what he was doing for food, he said he hadn’t eaten anything during the day because he wasn’t hungry. When asked again, he admitted it was because there were no public washrooms to which he could make it after he ate to empty his medical bag. Being in a manual wheelchair with no footrests, he said he doesn’t have the arm strength to go the distance to a public washroom.

The night of Aug. 16, he managed to spend in a motel, but they had no further nights available; plus after the $100 cost, he has no money left. He said he tried to get a place in the emergency shelter, which is also managed by NCTS, but was turned away.

“I went to the homeless shelter, and they said they were not accommodating anybody in wheelchairs. There is nothing in town. The closest I could get is in Terrace, but it’s too hot for me there. I went to the Sally Ann, but they were closed for renovations.”

When asked what his current accommodation plans were, he said, “Right here. Right here. I’m living on the corner.”

The senior citizen said he tried to speak to the administrator at the Crows Nest to apologize for smoking and make amends but was told it was too late.

“I screwed up. I did — no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” he said as he sobbed on the street corner. “But why would they make an example of me being in a wheelchair when there are others in there smoking pot.”

In response to inquiries from The Northern View, BC Housing stated in an email, “The situation is definitely something we can look into … however, in order for us to provide a fulsome response, we would need some time to reach out to our non-profit partner in Prince Rupert to find out more about this individual and what the circumstances are regarding his housing.”

The Northern View has reached out for comment to North Coast Transition Society, Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre, and North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

READ MORE: Crow’s Nest Lodge supportive housing officially opens with conference and tour

READ MORE: UPDATED: Homeless shelter concerns

K-J Millar | Journalist
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